Lobbyist bribed DeLay by setting up retirement account for wife

For a glimpse of how creative lobbyists can get when it comes to buying votes, consider the one who set up a retirement account for Tom DeLay’s wife and then pumped thousands of dollars into it.

Writes R. Jeffrey Smith in The Washington Post:

A registered lobbyist opened a retirement account in the late 1990s for the wife of then-House Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) and contributed thousands of dollars to it while also paying her a salary to work for him from her home in Texas, according to sources, documents and DeLay’s attorney, Richard Cullen.

The account represents a small portion of the income that DeLay’s family received from entities at least partly controlled by lobbyist Edwin A. Buckham. But the disclosure of its origin adds to what was previously known about the benefits DeLay’s family received from its association with Buckham, and it brings the total over the past seven years to about half a million dollars.

Buckham was DeLay’s chief of staff before he became a lobbyist at the end of 1998, shortly before the account was opened and the flow of funds began. He has come under scrutiny from federal investigators because his lobbying firm received hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue from clients of indicted Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Buckham’s financial ties to DeLay’s family — and the retirement account in particular — have recently attracted the interest of FBI agents and others in the federal task force probing public corruption by lawmakers and lobbyists, according to a source who was questioned in the course of the government’s investigation.

Cullen said the retirement account was required for Buckham’s employees under Internal Revenue Service rules. But investigators are looking at Buckham’s role in establishing the account and at whether the lawmaker may have performed official acts in return for any of the income arranged by Buckham, according to the source. DeLay denies any wrongdoing.

Another lawmaker, Rep. John T. Doolittle (R-Calif.), has similarly come under Justice Department scrutiny in the past year because of fees paid to his wife’s consulting firm — in that instance as compensation for soliciting corporate campaign contributions.